Spray foam insulation consistently outperforms all other types of insulation. Unfortunately, while effective at both insulating and sealing, polyurethane spray foam does have ingredients that can cause adverse health effects if not handled properly. These ingredients include isocyanates which can cause skin and eye irritation, asthma, lung damage, and other respiratory problems. Whether you are the applicator, a helper, or an occupant of the building being sprayed, there are several steps you should take to keep everyone safe.
First, start by reading the product information for instructions on the application process, safety practices, precautions, and hazards. If you follow all safety precautions, you can prevent exposure to the potentially harmful ingredients. Also, you should determine the safe re-entry time for unprotected individuals, based on the manufacturer’s recommendation.
If during the application of the foam, you experience any breathing problems or health concerns, seek immediate medical attention. Once you begin applying the foam, only properly protected individuals should come into the work area. Another important thing is fresh air. Make sure you have good ventilation in place. After you finish applying the spray foam insulation, it is very important to avoid chemical exposure while it is curing. To ensure this, keep the work area closed to everyone for the period of time previously determined.
Carefully read all instructions to find out the exact time needed for curing. Some manufacturers recommend 24 hours for two-component, high-pressure spray foam insulation. This is usually considered the “professional” spray foam. The one-component foam that you can get in 12 or 24-ounce cans sometimes has an 8-24 hour curing time. Generally, 24 hours should be enough for safe re-entry without protective equipment. It’s best to be on the safe side by waiting longer than specified rather than rushing this part of the process. If you cannot find this estimate on the product label, contact the manufacturer or supplier for the re-entry time.
When properly applied and allowed to cure, spray foam insulation will become more or less chemically inactive. However, there are several factors that can impact curing rates. Curing times can be affected by a few factors including temperature, humidity, improper workplace practices (such as not sealing air vents or shutting down the HVAC system), improper mixing of the foam, and other poor application techniques.
Spray foam insulation can be installed as a small DIY project. In this case, homeowners can use spray foam cans or kits to apply the insulation. These kits always come with instructions for use. However, for larger projects, it’s best to call in professional contractors. With a large project, there are just too many factors that could pose greater potential health hazards. They usually require protective equipment and specialized skills for application.